December 2009

For Daly, focus on family is personal crusade

December 16 2009 by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service

Despite his busy schedule as president of Colorado megaministry Focus on the Family, Jim Daly makes it a priority to leave the office in time to arrive home by 6 p.m. to spend time with his wife and two young sons.

But, as a recent conversation with his 9-year-old demonstrated, he confesses that the balancing act isn’t always easy.

“He says to me, ‘Hey, Dad, you’re really not focusing on your family’ and he gave me a big smile,” Daly said, wincing, as he recalled the trip to drop his son off at school on the way to the airport. 

“I said, ‘I’ll be home tomorrow night and we’re going to wrestle in the basement’ and he said, ‘Good enough!’”

For Daly, the emphasis on family is not just a job, nor simply a ministry, but a personal crusade. The 48-year-old father spent much of his childhood in Southern California’s Morongo Valley as an orphan after both his parents died by the time he was 12. Now, he’s striving to not only be a good father himself but to encourage others to look at adoption, heal a marriage or help a struggling teenager.

Daly, who attends a Colorado Springs church linked to the Calvary Chapel movement, describes God as the ultimate father figure. One of his favorite Bible verses is from Psalms, which describes divine protection for the fatherless and widows. 

“He’s for the widow and orphan; he’s a father to the fatherless,” said Daly, who became a Christian in high school during a Fellowship of Christian Athletes camp. “Those verses all meant a lot to me.”

RNS photo by Nick Kirkpatrick

Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, speaks at the 2009 Values Voter Summit in September in Washington.

With Daly as Exhibit A, Focus on the Family has developed “Wait No More” conferences to encourage Christians to consider adoption for children who are languishing in foster care. Colorado officials credit Focus with helping reduce the number of children awaiting adoption in the state from 875 to 550 over two years.

Yet Daly says he’s not satisfied with the drop: “We want to keep on that number until someday it’s no child is waiting.”

As Daly adjusts to recent layoffs at Focus and breaks new ground with expanded outreach efforts, he’s sticking with the ministry’s well-known conservative positions on social issues.

In November, he signed the Manhattan Declaration, a document that opposes abortion, same-sex marriage and limits on religious liberty.

Now that founder James Dobson has stepped down as president and chairman of the board, and plans to yield the microphone at his daily radio talk show in February, Daly is slowly becoming the public face of the Colorado Springs evangelical ministry. Yet Daly, who hasn’t decided how to fill Dobson’s radio role, said he views himself as succeeding, not replacing, the well-known broadcaster and psychologist. 

“People have often said, ‘Are you going to fill his shoes?’ and I laugh, first of all, and then I say, ‘No one will fill his shoes,”‘ he said. “I’m asking the Lord to just give me a new pair of shoes.”

One thing observers have already noticed is the two men’s different styles. Where Dobson was unapologetically outspoken and sometimes partisan, Daly is more winsome and more likely to seek out those with whom he disagrees. 

“They’re both committed to the same principles and the same ideas,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Washington-based Family Research Council, who also signed the Manhattan Declaration. “They just may approach them from a different way.”

Daly, who worked at Focus for 16 years before ascending to president four years ago, has also opened other new doors, reaching out to 20-somethings that make up more than 10 percent of his staff and seeking civil dialogue with people who typically disagree with his ministry’s conservative Christian stances.

At the annual Values Voter Summit in Washington this fall, Daly shunned the traditional podium and invited Esther Fleece, his assistant on millennial relations, to join him onstage on side-by-side bar stools.

“(W)hen you look at that group, the value voter group, a lot of them are middle-aged or older and they’re reinforcing one another’s worldview and perspective, which is one I believe in,” said Daly. “But we’ve got to engage and raise up the next generation of leadership.”

Fleece said the speech was a display of Daly’s “very relational” personality: “He doesn’t talk at people. He talks with people.”

Those talks extend to groups that have been at political loggerheads with Focus, including the Gill Foundation, a Colorado-based gay rights organization that has been on the opposite side of the ministry’s political arm in state political initiatives.

Though he differs with many of President Obama’s political positions, Daly sees promise in the White House’s fatherhood initiative, writing that “we need more men to follow his commitment to being a husband and father.” Daly said Obama’s experience of growing up with an absentee father “resonated” with his own story.

“We don’t have to give up our principles,” he said in an interview, “in order to have a discussion with people.”
12/16/2009 8:41:00 AM by Adelle M. Banks, Religion News Service | with 2 comments

LifeWay introduces ‘Transformational Church’

December 16 2009 by Baptist Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — During the 2009 SBC State Conventions’ Summit, held Dec. 8-11 in Nashville, Tenn., LifeWay outlined its “Transformational Church” initiative, a multi-year project set to launch in mid-2010 with the release of Transformational Church, a B&H Publishing Group book co-written by Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research, and Thom Rainer, LifeWay’s president and CEO.

Citing a season of “evangelical malaise” — when people are asking, “What do we need to think about differently?” — now is an “opportune time” to talk about church transformation, Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research, told the participants. 

“Transformational churches make disciples whose lives are being transformed by the gospel so that the culture around them is ultimately transformed,” Stetzer explained.

“Transformational churches are deeply committed to the essential foundations of discipleship: worship, community and mission. They practice and make disciples through vibrant leadership, prayerful dependence and relational intentionality, and they do so in their context with a missionary mindset.”

Spiritual transformation is the work of God in salvation, drawing unbelievers to Himself, regenerating them, indwelling them and conforming them to the likeness of Christ, Stetzer said. Spiritual transformation is experienced in the lives of God’s people and His church. They impact their communities and the world as living testimonies of the transforming power of Christ.

The initiative is designed around research which will be revealed in Stetzer and Rainer’s book, and will guide LifeWay as it produces resources to help churches spread the gospel and promote spiritual growth, Stetzer said. 

“The goal is not to give a church a book, tool or research that will help them make the headlines,” Stetzer stressed. “Our goal is to help churches — any size, any location — make a biblical impact.”

For months, LifeWay Research has been surveying thousands of churches from multiple denominations that are leading examples of spiritual transformation, Stetzer said. Those interviews are providing a framework for the resources LifeWay is developing to guide local churches through the Transformational Church process. 

“We’re asking people who are doing what we want to do, how they do it,” Stetzer said. Consultant training for Transformational Church will begin in fall 2010, with other events and resources to follow, including pastor/staff retreats and Transformational Church training conferences, Stetzer explained. Ultimately, church leaders will be invited to involve their congregations in the Transformational Church initiative by completing an internal survey and tailoring TC resources to their people, churches and communities. During a later session of the summit, Rainer told attendees there are two motivating forces behind the Transformational Church initiative.

First, “we want to know reality. Facts are our friends and they help us understand the current situation of the church in real terms — good, bad and ugly,” Rainer said.

Second, “we see hope and possibilities in what God is doing in local churches. This is what our research has shown us, and we want to share this encouraging data with churches at all levels of effectiveness.” 

Drawing from the book of Zechariah and the seemingly hopeless situation facing the Jews after their return from exile in Babylon, Rainer said there are three reasons the American church has, in many respects, lost hope: lack of focus, opposition from without and dissension from within. 

The new data from LifeWay Research, however, reveals many churches are passionate about the gospel and, as a result, are thriving, Rainer said. 

“The most important message is that churches are being transformed, and they are actively engaged in the transformation of people and communities,” Rainer said. “Too often we’ve highlighted the negative realities of the declining American church, but we’ve missed the opportunity to magnify the God of hope and transformation.” 

More information about the project is available at  
12/16/2009 8:35:00 AM by Baptist Press | with 0 comments

Swiss aren't alone in resisting mosques

December 16 2009 by Omar Sacirbey

RNS) When Switzerland recently voted to ban the construction of minaret towers at mosques, some observers interpreted it as an expression of European xenophobia that would never find a home in multicultural America.

But to say it couldn't happen here would be wrong, or at least premature.

In hundreds of communities across the U.S. where Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and other religious minorities have sought to build or expand their houses of worship, private citizens have gone to great lengths to block their construction. Tactics range from using eminent domain and citing traffic concerns to running pig races and stirring up fears of terrorism.

There are currently at least five such cases, including in suburban Chicago, where the DuPage County zoning board of appeals voted unanimously on Monday (Dec. 7) to deny the Irshad Learning Center a permit to build a mosque in tony Naperville, Ill.

Decisions on construction permits are also pending for mosques in Piscataway, N.J., and Northville, Mich. A Muslim group in Lilburn, Ga., is threatening legal action after city officials rejected their proposal to expand their mosque, while neighbors in Morada, Calif., have filed suit to stop the construction of a 13,820-square-foot mosque.

Lawyers supporting religious congregations in land use disputes say the right to build houses of worship is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution, and amplified in laws such as the 2000 Religion Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which is supposed to protect houses of worship from onerous regulations.

Despite those legal protections, the fates of proposed worship spaces are often determined by local regulations, or lack thereof.

States like California, New Jersey, and Illinois are extensively regulated by such laws, requiring that proposed buildings meet strict requirements on noise, traffic, utilities and environmental impact of surrounding neighborhoods.

Worshippers and experts say they take those concerns seriously, but argue that much of the opposition is rooted in bigotry. They say the not-in-my-backyard opponents use zoning laws to keep mosques, temples and other houses of worship out of their neighborhoods.

"It becomes a heckler's veto. It empowers people who might not have a clean motive," said attorney Eric Rassbach with the Washington-based Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. "Nobody admits to hating Muslims because they know they're not going to win that way."

Amin Mahmood, a member of the Morada, Calif., congregation, said he initially believed opposition to the proposed mosque was based on routine neighborhood concerns, but became doubtful when opponents in the Morada Area Association didn't object to proposals for a new Baptist church nearby.

"They didn't go to court to oppose the church, but they go to court to oppose the mosque?" said Mahmood. "Come on."

While local zoning meetings usually attract just a few interested parties, hearings concerning mosques can attract dozens, and often hundreds, of people on both sides. Wasi Zaidi, a founding member of the 11-year-old Muslim congregation in Lilburn, Ga., said between 400 and 500 people attended the Nov. 18 city council when his mosque was discussed.

"We didn't get our rights. To get our rights, we have to go to a higher authority," said Zaidi, explaining his group's decision to sue.

Zaidi said he believed some opposition was legitimately rooted in noise and traffic concerns, but noted that many comments made on local news sites revealed deep-seated anti-Muslim sentiment among Lilburn residents.

Scott Batterton, a member of the Lilburn City Council, acknowledged that bigotry may have motivated some opponents, but said that most had legitimate quality-of-life concerns. What's more, he added, Lilburn is not a racist town, noting that it's home to two other mosques and a Hindu temple.

Some cases approach near absurdity. In Westchester County, N.Y., in 2001, neighbors cited noise complaints to try and prevent Buddhist monks from holding silent meditation services in a private home. In 2006, when a group of Muslims sought permission to build a mosque on a rural road in Katy, Texas, neighbor Craig Baker hosted Friday night pig races -- Muslims consider pigs to be dirty, and Friday is a holy day for Muslims.

Undeterred, the local chapter of the Muslim American Society obtained its construction permit for the mosque, and has in the meantime placed two modular buildings on the land for prayer services and community meetings.

Baker did not return phone calls, but Hesham Ebaid, director of the Katy Islamic center, tried to be diplomatic, conceding that Muslims could have done a better job in outreach. More recently, the mosque has invited families for open house meet-and-greets.

As for Baker, Ebaid said, the pig races have stopped, and he even hired two Muslims to work at the bath and kitchen business he owns.

"He said, `I'm trying,"' Ebaid said. "So I give him credit for that."


12/16/2009 7:56:00 AM by Omar Sacirbey | with 1 comments

Baptist origins: from kinship or dissent?

December 16 2009 by Jeff Robinson

NEW ORLEANS (BP)--The Evangelical Theological Society's annual meeting in New Orleans included an examination of the question: Where did Baptists come from and what are their distinctive beliefs?


Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Tom Nettles, professor of historical theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, presented papers arguing in favor of competing Baptist descent theories.


Bruce Ware, professor of theology at Southern Seminary, is the first Southern faculty member ever to serve as the organization's president and he presided at the Nov. 18-20 ETS gathering.  

Baptist historians have proposed numerous theories regarding the question of Baptist origins, including:


-- Various "successionist theories," which assert that Baptist churches have continued in an unbroken line since the time of the apostles.


-- The "Anabaptist kinship" theory, which asserts that Baptists rose from Dutch and Swiss Anabaptists in the 16th century, groups that were born in reaction against such prominent reformers such as Martin Luther and John Calvin.


-- The "English Separatist Descent" theory, which argues that Baptists rose from English dissent (Puritanism) in the early 17th century. This theory, held today by a majority of historians, places the Baptist birth year at around 1609, prompting numerous conferences and papers this year marking the 400th anniversary of Baptist beginnings.


Patterson, in his paper, "Genetics Versus Historiography: A Case for the Connection of Continental Anabaptism and Contemporary Baptists," argued in favor of Anabaptist kinship, asserting that Baptist churches in England and America share a heritage from Swiss Anabaptists who lived in England in the 17th century.


While acknowledging that the primary sources lean decidedly toward Baptist origins from English dissent, Patterson argued in favor of contemporary Baptists' spiritual kinship with Anabaptists on four doctrinal grounds.


"On the most critically important doctrines, Baptists [in 17th-century England] were virtually indistinguishable from their Anabaptist cousins," Patterson said.


"These [four] doctrines were: the absolute authority of the Bible and the necessity that the Scriptures be the sole authority for the development of authority and practice; the necessity of 'adult faith' for regeneration; the baptism of only the regenerate as a confession of faith; and a regenerate and disciplined church free from all other ecclesiastical authority in terms of belief and practice."


While all evangelicals in the Reformation claimed the principle of "sola Scriptura" -- Scripture as the sole authority of the church and the believer -- only the Baptists and Anabaptists followed the principle consistently by rejecting infant baptism, Patterson pointed out.


In viewing infant baptism as an unbiblical innovation, Baptists and Anabaptists also embraced "adult faith," Patterson said, or the belief that an individual must consciously and willfully trust in Christ for salvation, something babies lack the ability to do. This, in turn, led to defining the church as a community of baptized believers who gather voluntarily, free from governmental coercion. Anabaptists, he said, bequeathed these ideas to later Baptists, thus delivering to them their "Anabaptist DNA."


Nettles, in his paper, "The Particular Baptist Defense of Beginning Anew," argued that the modern-day Baptist pilgrimage may be properly traced to 1638 in England through the records of the "Jacob-Lathrop-Jessey (JLJ) Church," which tells of a Particular (or Calvinistic) minister named John Spilsbury, who recovered the practice of believer's baptism by immersion. Spilsbury argued that believer's baptism by immersion was a biblical practice and was one of the elements that constituted a true church even though the practice had not been in place in unbroken succession since the time of the apostles. The Bible gave Christians all the warrant they needed for recovery of the practice, Spilsbury asserted.


Spilsbury, Nettles said, defined a true church according to four elements: Faithful preaching of the Word; a clear confession of faith; voluntary participation together by covenant built upon the truths of Scripture as crystallized in the confession of faith; and a body composed of those who have been converted by the Spirit and properly baptized. These elements have formed a fundamental part of Baptist identity since, he said.


Nettles showed that John Smyth and fellow General (Arminian) Baptist Thomas Helwys helped to begin a movement toward the establishment of Baptist doctrine in the early 1600s, but that Baptist identity as it is known today came closer to full flower in Spilsbury. Thus, Baptist beginnings find their clearest expression in the Particular Baptists of England in the early-mid 17th century.


"Spilsbury's cogent arguments for a gathered, disciplined congregation of believers baptized by immersion as constituting the New Testament church gave expression to and built on insights that had emerged within separatism, advanced in the life of John Smyth and the suffering congregation of Thomas Helwys, and matured in Particular Baptists," Nettles said.


"The historical connections of both Helwys and Spilsbury defy any attempt to create an organic historic succession of Baptist churches.... Spilsbury's clear combination of authority, soteriology, confession and ecclesiology contributed immensely to the stability and confidence with which modern-day Baptists began their pilgrimage."


While they made a case for differing theories of Baptist origins, Patterson and Nettles agreed that the conclusions of successionist theories are largely unsupportable.


The format of the session was not a debate, so the papers were not presented as opposing cases for Baptist origins. Jason Lee, professor of historical theology at Southwestern, also presented a paper on the spiritual views of Smyth.



12/16/2009 7:26:00 AM by Jeff Robinson | with 2 comments

Apologetics 'no longer an option'

December 16 2009 by Gary D. Myers

NEW ORLEANS (BP)--Many of the brightest minds in Christian apologetics and philosophy gathered in New Orleans with a common goal -- teaching believers how to defend the Christian faith.


The seventh annual Evangelical Philosophical Society's Apologetics Conference drew a who's who lineup of Christian thinkers skilled in presenting the case for Christianity to a skeptical world. The Nov. 19-21 sessions at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary featured such scholars as Gary Habermas of Liberty University, Ben Witherington III of Asbury Theological Seminary, Doug Geivett of Talbot School of Theology, James Walker of Watchman Fellowship and others -- 21 speakers in all.


The apologetics conference is held in conjunction with the annual meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society and Evangelical Philosophical Society. This year's ETS/EPS meetings were held in New Orleans Nov. 18-20.


"We have to know why we believe what we believe," said J.P. Moreland, distinguished professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology in Mirada, Calif., in opening the conference with a discussion of why Christian knowledge matters.


"And we have to be able to defend our faith in an increasingly secular culture," Moreland said. "It is no longer an option; it has now become an obligation, given the situation we're in."


Moreland said three worldviews now dominate Western culture: scientific naturalism, postmodernism and Christianity, each with a different understanding of knowledge.


Those who hold to scientific naturalism, which Moreland described as the most prevalent worldview today, believe that knowledge of reality comes only from science; for something to be known, it must be proven empirically.


Postmoderns believe that truth is relative to individual cultures, Moreland said. They believe that something can be "true" for one culture but not for another.


The third worldview is Christianity; while scientific naturalism and postmodernism have gained wide acceptance, Moreland said the Christian worldview has not been completely marginalized. It remains "a vibrant worldview in this culture and it is still having an impact throughout society," he said.


Some proponents of scientific naturalism and postmodernism deny any possibility that Christianity might be true. Still others argue that even if Christianity is true, it cannot be known to be true. Moreland argued that not only is Christianity true, but its truthfulness can also be known.


Moreland said that the words "know" and "believe" carry different authority, with people in Western culture being accorded authority based on knowledge rather than belief.


"It is very, very important for you and for me to recapture this idea that there is knowledge of God, there is knowledge of the afterlife ... that Jesus Christ has risen from dead."


While Christianity is a true belief backed by adequate reasons, Moreland said some Christians focus more on faith -- often blind faith -- than on knowledge. Warning against this view, Moreland said faith is "trusting what we know to be true" and is based on knowledge, "not a substitute for it."


Timothy McGrew, professor of philosophy at Western Michigan University, encouraged Christians to read works of early apologists such as William Paley, Richard Whately and Thomas Cooper.


McGrew noted that Richard Dawkins and other vocal atheists are borrowing centuries-old arguments from atheists and freethinkers of the past. Because they refuted the same arguments years ago, the ideas of Paley, Whately and Cooper are helpful in dismantling the arguments of current atheists, McGrew said.


McGrew presented a brief overview of the three apologists' major works, adding that many works by these and other apologists are available through the Library of Historical Apologetics website (


The apologetics conference featured presentations by three NOBTS faculty members -- Michael Edens, professor of theology and Islamic studies; Steve Lemke, provost and professor of philosophy and ethics; and Robert Stewart, associate professor of philosophy and theology. Mike Licona, apologetics coordinator for the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board, also led a breakout session during the conference.


Conference organizers developed a youth track to help younger believers develop apologetics skills.


Sean McDowell, a high school teacher, trained apologist and son of noted apologist Josh McDowell, was the featured speaker for the opening session of the youth track, playing the role of an atheist and challenging members of the audience to respond to his arguments against Christianity. Several youth and children participated in the discussion, offering arguments for Christianity. At the end of his presentation, McDowell said he started the conference in this manner to illustrate the sophistication of many atheistic arguments and to encourage youth and youth workers to develop skills to defend their faith.


Prior to the apologetics conference, organizers also hosted local pastors for a luncheon meeting centering on the importance of apologetics training in the local church, with New Orleans Seminary President Chuck Kelley and Tony Merida, teaching pastor at Temple Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, Miss., as featured speakers and J.P. Moreland in a question-and answer-session.


"The most important apologist in America is the pastor a local church," Kelley told the pastors and church leaders.


The local church, from mega-churches to small rural congregations, must be the "cradle" of defenders of the faith, Kelley said. "Everything that happens in the Kingdom of God happens in, around, through and for the benefit of, the local church."


Gary D. Myers is director of public relations at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. NOBTS writer Paul F. South contributed to this article.


12/16/2009 7:24:00 AM by Gary D. Myers | with 0 comments

Oral Roberts dead at 91

December 15 2009 by Press release

TULSA, Okla. – Legendary evangelist Oral Roberts died Dec. 15 in Newport Beach, Calif., due to complications from pneumonia. The founder of Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association and Oral Roberts University was 91.

“Oral Roberts was the greatest man of God I’ve ever known,” said his son, Richard Roberts, in a press release from the organization. “A modern-day apostle of the healing ministry, an author, educator, evangelist, prophet, and innovator, he was the only man of his generation to build a worldwide ministry, an accredited university, and a medical school. 

“His name is synonymous with miracles. He came along when many in Christendom did not believe in the power of God and His goodness. Oral Roberts was known for sayings such as ‘God Is a Good God,’ ‘Expect a Miracle,’ ‘Release Your Faith,’ and ‘Plant Your Seed for a Harvest.’”

Granville Oral Roberts was born into poverty in Bebee, Okla., Jan. 24, 1918. He began stuttering as a young child and then, as a teenager, contracted a potentially deadly case of tuberculosis. Bedfast at 17, he was carried to a revival meeting by his older brother, where a healing evangelist was praying for the sick.

On the way, he clearly heard God speak to him, saying, “Son, I am going to heal you, and you are to take My healing power to your generation. You are to build Me a university based on My authority and on the Holy Spirit.”

Roberts was miraculously healed of tuberculosis and stuttering at the revival meeting. His healing ministry was born several years later.

“If a former stuttering, tuberculosis-ridden young Indian boy in an obscure county in Oklahoma can see the invisible and do the impossible — and still do it — so can you!” Roberts once said.

After his healing at age 17, Roberts spent a dozen years pastoring churches in Oklahoma and Georgia, and preaching at revivals around the country, while also studying at Oklahoma Baptist University and Phillips (Okla.) University.

Then, in 1947, he founded Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association (OREA) and began conducting crusades across America and around the world, attracting crowds of thousands — many who were sick and dying, and in search of healing. Through the years, he conducted more than 300 crusades on six continents. OREA officials estimate that he personally laid hands in prayer on more than 2 million people. The ministry continues under the leadership of Roberts’ son, Richard, who has ministered in the U.S. and around the world for almost 30 years.

In 1954, Oral Roberts revolutionized evangelism by bringing television cameras into services, providing what he liked to call a “front-row seat to miracles” for millions of viewers. Years later, he began a television program, “Oral Roberts Presents.” 

In 1958, Roberts founded the Abundant Life Prayer Group to address the around-the-clock needs of those suffering and requesting prayer. More than 50 years later, prayer partners continue to receive calls from around the world seven days a week, 24 hours a day. 

Roberts answered God’s call to build an institute of higher learning in 1963, founding Oral Roberts University on 500 acres in Tulsa, Okla. Longtime friend Billy Graham officially dedicated ORU four years later. In the 1970s graduate schools, including medicine, nursing, dentistry, law, education, and theology, were added. Roberts served as school president until 1993, when he became chancellor.

In 1981, Roberts founded the City of Faith Medical and Research Center amidst controversy that there was no need for such medical capacity in Tulsa.. The facility closed after eight years.

Roberts wrote more than 130 books.

Roberts was preceded in death by his wife, Evelyn. He is survived by a son and daughter-in-law, Richard and Lindsay Roberts; a daughter and son-in-law, Roberta and Ronald Potts, all of Tulsa; as well as 12 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.      
12/15/2009 9:46:00 AM by Press release | with 1 comments

GriefShare gives advice for surviving holidays

December 14 2009 by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor

If Jackie Riggsbee Woodcock has learned one thing about grief, it’s that it is unique in each person.

“Nobody can tell anybody how to grieve,” said Woodcock, who lost her husband, Phil, in 2005 after an 11-month battle with pancreatic cancer. Woodcock said attending a GriefShare event at a local church helped her.

Contributed photo

Valerie McKean, who lost her mother to pancreatic cancer, shares photos of her mom with other GriefShare participants.

“I saw that it was a good program,” she said. “You can’t do it yourself.”

It also inspired her to start GriefShare at her church, Westwood Baptist in Cary in 2006. The church offers spring, fall and winter sessions (13-week cycles) of GriefShare and a special “Surviving the Holidays” event near Christmas.

Each participant at this year’s “Surviving the Holidays” event received a guide that included 30 days of devotions and Bible study.

“A lot of memories creep back into our minds and hearts at Christmas and other holidays,” Woodcock said. 

Woodcock added a memorial service to the special event, which drew 25 participants. People brought pictures of loved ones lost and lit candles in their memory.

“I try to incorporate other stuff into it,” said Woodcock, who is also a volunteer with hospice and a Sunday School teacher.

A small group stayed to watch a video about helping children with grief.

Not all grief programs are Christ centered, Woodcock said. GriefShare uses biblical principles.

To those who are helping others through grief or other hard times, Woodcock recommends they pray that their friends “look up and not around. Pray that they look to God … to their church family. Your Christian friends are going to help you a lot. GriefShare helped me, too.”

When it comes to this grief-counseling ministry, Woodcock admits her bias. But it has helped her, and she has seen it help countless others.

Her advice for someone grieving:
  • Get into GriefShare.
  • Don’t be alone.
  • Don’t hide away.
  • Don’t hold it in either.
“You’ve got to go through it,” she said. “You have to go through it … that’s the only way to describe it. GriefShare helps you grow through the grief.”

Grief doesn’t go away immediately either, she said. “It takes an average three to five years,” she said, advising no major decisions be made in the first year unless absolutely necessary. “Trust in God and don’t hide. Don’t sit at home and dwell on it.”

Christmas is not the hardest for Woodcock. She stays busy with her family. Her Valentine’s wedding anniversary is much harder, she said.

“Last year I thought I was tough and I could work through it but I couldn’t do it,” she said.

Woodcock said she went to her full-time job every day but did not do well, to say the least. In 2010, Woodcock plans to return to her tradition of going to the beach for her anniversary.

“Being at the ocean calms me down,” she said. “It always has. I guess it always will. I could sit and look at the water forever.”

Another thing that has helped Woodcock has been releasing balloons. She sometimes takes red and white balloons, writes emotions that she’s had a hard time releasing on them and releases them.

The act symbolizes “letting go and letting God take care of it,” she said. She also uses balloons in GriefShare

One of the best things she’s found that helps her is helping others.

 The normal GriefShare sessions consist of a video and discussing the five days of Bible study included in a workbook.

Woodcock said whether the group is small or large she feels “God sends exactly who should be there” each time. 

“I always have plenty of (tissue) and chocolate available,” Woodcock said. “We share lots of serious times while focusing on healing thru God’s word as we move from ‘Mourning to Joy.’”  

To find a GriefShare group near you visit and type in zip code in the “Find a group near you” section.  

Tips to survive holidays
Jackie Woodcock, who coordinates GriefShare at Westwood Baptist Church in Cary, offered some tips for people to survive the holidays:
  • Stay busy
  • Be with people
  • Be in church with a kind and loving church family.
  • Focus on others, not yourself.
  • Don’t hide your feelings, but don’t get stuck in them either.   
12/14/2009 10:15:00 AM by Dianna L. Cagle, BR Assistant Managing Editor | with 2 comments

Baptist Credit Union an asset for you

December 14 2009 by BR staff

Since 1961 employees or family members of an employee of any Baptist entity in North Carolina have been eligible for membership in the Baptist Employees Credit Union.

The Credit Union is an expanding resource for North Carolina Baptists. With $4.3 million in assets and more than 1,000 members, the Credit Union is a member-owned service that offers higher savings rates and lower loan rates than most banks.

Craig Snyder, who has 30 years of experience in banking and credit unions, is the new director of the Baptist Employees Credit Union, with offices in the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina staff building in Cary.

“We are non-profit,” Snyder says, to explain some of the financial advantages of doing business with the Credit Union. “Unlike banks whose intention is to get as much money out of you as they can, our intention is to help you save as much money as we can.”

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Craig Snyder

The Baptist State Convention provides the Credit Union office space, phone and utilities. 

“The trend is heading up for credit unions as people are less trusting of banks,” Snyder said. “People generally are looking for a place where they feel they are a priority and not just a number.”

The Credit Union offers savings accounts, Christmas clubs, IRAs, multiple loan products, direct deposit, financial counseling, long term care products, debt consolidation and a credit card. It also offers financing on vehicles that are older than a bank will typically finance, enabling a member to buy an older, less expensive car.

“Right now, it’s kind of hard to borrow money at the bank for any reason,” Snyder said. “We are a member owned organization and we analyze the total picture for a member instead of just looking at a credit score as lone determining factor.”

Call the Credit Union and you will talk with a real person, likely Snyder himself or assistant Sherry Bowling, who has been with the Credit Union 10 years.

“You’re not leaving a message for a stranger,” Snyder said. “We handle our transactions through the mail and over the phone, with a quick turnaround.” 

Snyder said new products the Credit Union will offer next year include internet banking, debit cards, ATM service at more than 100 locations across the state, check writing and audio banking for those without a computer. Just call the credit union and you will be able to initiate transactions with audio prompts.

“We are rock solid and up and coming” Snyder said.

Call Snyder at (800) 395-5102, ext. 5660. Or write or visit www.ncbaptist/resources.
12/14/2009 10:10:00 AM by BR staff | with 0 comments

Baptist Foundation offers church loans

December 14 2009 by Norman Jameson, BR Editor

With the creation this year of North Carolina Baptist Financial Services, N.C. Baptist churches have a new resource for loans.

The wholly owned subsidiary of the N.C. Baptist Foundation already has approved $7.8 million in church loans.

A lead investment of $2.5 million of reserves held by the Baptist State Convention jump started the ability of N.C. Baptist Financial Services to start making loans while gearing up the investment stream from other sources.

Contributed photo

Russell Jones

Russell Jones, with 25 years in the banking industry, is managing director of the new service. He maintains his office in Charlotte while traveling the state.

“For some time there’s been a need for a program like this,” said Jones, son of longtime Durham pastor Crate Jones.

While Baptist foundations in other states have provided a loan service, and the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina has offered small loans, primarily for church plants, this is the Foundation’s first foray into the service.

“The Foundation is the logical choice to house this ministry,” Jones said.

Jones said Baptist Financial Services is not a replacement for traditional bank loans or bond sales, but it offers churches an alternative funding source.

As a banker, Jones authorized many church loans, but he said bank enthusiasm for making church loans runs “hot and cold, especially in the economic environment right now.”

Loan applications made through Baptist Financial Services will undergo qualification tests similar to a bank loan process, and a loan committee reviews all applications.

“But we have a better understanding of church needs,” Jones said.  

Investment pool
To build a pool of money from which church loans can be provided, N.C. Baptist Financial Services offers the Church Growth Investment Fund. Investment in this fund is open to Baptist entities, churches or individuals who want to earn a return on their own money, while making it available to loan to churches.

“If you don’t need access to your funds in the immediate future you can invest to help other churches,” Jones said.

While that investment fund is not protected by the Federal Depository Insurance Corporation, Jones said he is careful “to make sure the church has financial resources to qualify for the loan.”

Eventually, Jones hopes NC Baptist Financial Services generates a surplus that would be available for other Kingdom projects.

The board of the Baptist Foundation elects the board of N.C. Baptist Financial Services, which in its first year consists wholly of Baptist Foundation board members. Some members of the board comprise the loan committee.

To apply for a loan, or to inquire about investing in the Church Growth Investment Fund, contact Jones directly at (800) 521-7334, ext 1680, or Find loan application and other information online.

Jones and his wife, Lori, are parents to three children and are members of First Baptist Church, Mathews. He is a graduate and former board member of Wingate University.
12/14/2009 9:58:00 AM by Norman Jameson, BR Editor | with 0 comments

5 basics for planning mission trip

December 11 2009 by NAMB Staff

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)--Good mission projects don't just happen. Following a few simple guidelines will help make the experience meaningful to on-mission volunteers as well as the people they serve.


Here are fundamentals every church should consider when planning a mission trip.


-- Leadership is the key to success. If the team leader is not on your church's staff, recruit a volunteer from your membership to be trained and equipped to help lead. To be successful, this person should have a heart for missions, good organizational skills and the ability to work with and motivate others. The church's team leader will take primary responsibility for project logistics, keeping everything on track and maintaining communication with the on-site project manager.


-- To enlist a mission team, make announcements about upcoming mission trips and encourage interested folks to sign up by a certain date. Then conduct an orientation meeting to lay out expectations, logistics and requirements. First-timers may have questions, so this meeting can go a long way toward alleviating their anxiety about "the unknown." Also, this is the time to inform team members about required training, which is best developed around four areas:


1) Spiritual preparation. A Bible study on the basics of missions and service can be instructive and inspirational. Prayer and a personal relationship with Christ are prerequisites to being on mission.


2) Task training. Whether it's how to teach children, how to paint a house or how to conduct a block party, task training is essential for a successful trip.


3) Evangelism training. All team members should learn how to share their faith. Provide opportunities to practice doing this, so they'll feel comfortable before the beginning of the trip. There's only one Gospel message, but there are a variety of ways to share it. To be an effective witness, learn about the culture or people group you're trying to reach. Most on-mission Christians have a favorite evangelism tool, whether it's a tract, witnessing bracelets or a written testimony. Some tools are more appropriate in certain situations than in others. Choose one that works best for your group and then practice using it.


4) Hands-on preparation. To provide experience beforehand, work together on a local project such as your church's Vacation Bible School. If your mission team will be doing construction, smaller projects in your community give participants a chance to learn how to work with tools. Be sure to involve the whole team.


-- Budgeting boils down to three choices for financing a mission trip: 1) place the total cost of the project in the church budget; 2) designate the project as "total cost recovery" and charge sufficient participant fees to cover all costs; or 3) blend these models together. Many churches use the blended model, with part of the total cost funded by the church budget, part charged to the participants and part recovered through sponsorships or fundraisers. This plan has the benefit of requiring serious commitments from both the participant and the church. To build a mission trip budget, consider costs such as transportation, lodging, food and ministry supplies. A free downloadable Volunteer Mobilization Logistics Manual with budget worksheets and planning checklists is available from the North American Mission Board at


-- Implementing a successful mission trip depends on how closely you work in advance with your project manager/missionary so there are no surprises when you arrive on site. If possible, key leaders should make a pre-project visit to the location. Ask the project manager/missionary how your team can best assist him or her in meeting the goals of the ministry. By working with that person you can design a schedule to maximize your impact and complement the established ministry. Consider establishing a dress code and covenant for conduct. Make sure you look at the trip with an eye toward maximizing safety and minimizing the risk of danger. For more short-term missions resources, visit and click on the "Missions Opportunities" link.


-- Involve the whole church by holding a commissioning service before the trip. This will bring into focus the importance of missions for the entire church and remind volunteers that the body of Christ is sending them out. Challenge church members to pray for the team throughout the entire project. When you return, plan a follow-up celebration. This is the perfect forum for volunteers to share what God accomplished during the mission trip. Be creative in the presentation -- use photographs and video to show church members what took place. For resources to promote a missions mindset at your church visit


Today, thousands and thousands of Southern Baptist volunteers are answering the call to short-term missions. For many, it's a launching point to a lifetime of being on mission. 

Provided by the communications staff of the North American Mission Board.


12/11/2009 2:25:00 AM by NAMB Staff | with 0 comments

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